Scientific plagiarism: A growing problem in an era of shrinking research funding

January 24, 2012

As scientific researchers become evermore competitive for scarce funding, scientific journals are increasing efforts to identify submissions that plagiarize the work of others. Still, it may take years to identify and retract the plagiarized papers and give credit to the actual researchers.

"We need a better system," said Harold Garner, executive director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech. Garner discussed the problem and solution in a Comment in the January 4, 2012 issue of Nature and in a January 19, 2012 radio interview with NPR's Leonard Lopate.

Garner, creator of eTBLAST plagiarism detection software, identified numerous instances of wholesale plagiarism among in MEDLINE. "When my colleagues and I introduced an to spot similar citations in MEDLINE, we uncovered more than 150 suspected cases of plagiarism in March, 2009.

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"Subsequent ethics investigations resulted in 56 retractions within a few months. However, as of November 2011, 12 (20 percent) of those "retracted" papers are still not so tagged in PubMed. Another two were labeled with errata that point to a website warning the papers are "duplicate" -- but more than 95 percent of the text was identical, with no similar co-authors."

But even when plagiarism is uncovered, it does not guarantee that the plagiarized articles will be retracted. In Garner's study, as noted in his Nature commentary, "Three of the 56 retracted papers are cited in books, including one citation after the . Another eight were cited in other PubMed Central archived articles before retraction, and seven were cited after retraction."

Some researchers say plagiarism has become a in many large institutions and schools, and that there is an entire industry built on the business of copying the work of others for the purpose of developing theses content and technical papers.

Quelling the of scientific plagiarism by identifying and retracting plagiarized articles is not the only issue. Publication editors and researchers must agree on the definition of plagiarism as noted in Nature.

Said Garner, "Ultimately, plagiarism comes down to human judgment, similar to other questionable practices -- you know it when you see it."

Explore further: Plagiarism sleuths tackle full-text biomedical articles

More information: The Comment in Nature appears here:

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1 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2012
United italian research gang from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Joint Research Centre, universities of Ferrara and Genova with a leading bandit at Northwestern University had successfully completed its sequential plagiaristic enterprise:
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2012
How is internet piracy different than plagiarism?
How many readers here oppose laws protecting copyright but attack plagiarism?

Those internet piracy laws claim information is free for all. Why not scientific research?
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2012
ryggesogn2: That's either a very bad attempt at trolling, or a very shortsighted observation that you didn't think about nearly long enough.

Here's a comparison to help you out a bit:
Copies completed set of data: Plagiarism (YES) | Piracy (YES)
Claims authorship of set of data: Plagiarism (YES) | Piracy (NO)
People actually use the set of data for the purpose it was created for (economic aspect excluded): Plagiarism (NO) | Piracy (YES)
Discourages legitimate creators and authors: Plagiarism (YES) | Piracy (YES)
Wastes time and money: Plagiarism (YES) | Piracy (Unconfirmed)
Inspires widescale public discussion and political debate: Plagiarism (None so far) | Piracy (Definitely, look at the news)

That's just a sample of all the many different ways in which piracy and plagiarism differ. Note that this in no way supports or attacks any "position" on either of those two activities, it's just to show examples of how they differ. It also doesn't touch copyright *laws* at all.
1 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2012
Bottom line is the creator of the information deserves credit.
How will that credit be acknowledge, and hence rewarded?
Some individuals may want and demand monetary reward. Others may be satisfied with having their ego stroked.
The fundamental issue for the law is how the property rights are protected.
If the academic community is so concerned about individual achievement, students should be rewarded for their individual efforts and accomplishments, why don't they extend that to the rest of the world? Most academics support socialism which punishes individual achievement.
Socialism applied to the academic world would demand all grades should be the same and there could be no degrees.
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2012
More logical fallacies? I thought this site was about science.

Straw man: Socialism does not demand that all grades be the same, nor that there be no degrees. Nothing proves or empirically supports this claim.

Mind projection: What you perceive as "punishment" of individual achievement in socialism may be perceived as "reward" for others. What you think is not necessarily true by fundamental requirement.

Appeal to hypocrisy, cubed: You claim that the academic community is concerned about individual achievement, but don't act in line with that. You claim that its members, and by implication the community, are not and are socialistic. Then you attempt to ridicule the latter by claiming that they don't adhere to that latter philosophy.

The first half of your comment merely disregards lots of information and factors that seem implicated and important, and which clearly cannot be ruled out.

I'll stop there, as I would otherwise err dangerously close to a political argument.
not rated yet Jan 25, 2012
The research funding increases every year.
The problem is, the number of scientists increases even faster, because of lucrativeness of this area. Increasing number of publications together with their lower quality of their control is what makes the plagiarizing more easier.

Of course, for scientists involved it's more advantageous to pretend, it's because of lower funding ("If you would pay us more, we would become more honest!"). But nothing is more distant from reality. The higher budgeting will be, the higher number of parasites will exist in it.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2012
rawa1: You do have a point there. "Scarce funding" may be an excuse, or it may be a simple perception issue coming from relatively available funding and the amount of people competing for the same grant money. If it is an excuse, it would be comparable to the similar excuse on prices in the electronic piracy phenomenon.

Or, those stats might be misleading, as research funding could be increasing overall, but the majority or even all the difference be pooled into the same already-existing projects and teams, leaving less relative available funding for others since there are more scientists competing for funding.

There could also be the private science investment and funding category causing issues. I can't find any reliable information that would indicate whether private funding is going up or down, and/or whether it's dividing up or pooling up.
1 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2012
Socialism does not demand that all grades be the same,

Socialism demands equal outcomes.
The 'rich', those who work hard and earn more, must pay more. The socialist must take from the rich to give to the poor for an equal outcome.
Why won't the socialists apply the same process in the academic world?

And of course it is a political argument as most of the academic community supports socialism as a most funding is from the govt.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2012
Socialism demands equal outcomes. The 'rich', those who work hard and earn more, must pay more. The socialist must take from the rich to give to the poor for an equal outcome. [snip]

You've only repeated your point once again, without actually saying anything about the fact that this is a straw man, mind projection, and now with this also an ad hominem and a proof by assertion (http://en.wikiped...sertion) set of logical fallacies, also arguably built on appeals to equality and association fallacies.

You should try reviewing Wikipedia's list of logical fallacies (http://en.wikiped...llacies) and comparing it with your arguments before posting all this inconsistent and illogical propaganda.

I recommend doing it for each comment, for as many comments as it will take to get used to communicating logically. I'd recommend this to every human on or off this planet, mind you.
1 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2012
1. Many who post here support socialism, including the editors.
2. Many who post here support internet piracy. Read their recent postings.
3. Most research funding is provided by the state which can partially explain why so many researchers support socialism.
4. At its core, socialism is redistribution of what individuals have earned by their own effort.

I agree plagiarism is wrong just as internet piracy and socialism is wrong. But there appears to be a set of people who believe plagiarism is wrong and piracy and socialism are just fine. An inconsistent position if the work of individuals is to be rewarded with money, grades, degrees and/or praise.

1 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2012
ryggesogn2, your propositions 1 to 3 are completely sound as far as information easily available supports. Those are not being contested. What is, however, is the last:

4. At its core, socialism is redistribution of what individuals have earned by their own effort.

I believe you'll agree that if the above point is false, then the latter inference that those individuals who support socialism and believe piracy to be fine but plagiarism to be wrong is no longer supported (though "no longer supported" does not imply that it is *false* either).

Perhaps you should review and study over socialism again, starting here: http://dictionary...ocialism

You keep insisting on this one straw man argument, which you seem to make based on many false assumptions. Your wording and meaning are also blurred, possibly through bad wording or widely differing definitions and interpretations of the words used, most particularly "what individuals have earned".
1 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2012
I believe you'll agree that if the above point is false,

"From each according to his ability to each according to his need."

"even liberal college students do not care for socialist/redistributionist policies when it comes to things they have earned, such as their grades."

So Frank, you don't believe socialism all about redistribution of wealth?
1 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2012
You seem to be confusing and blurring, just like the linked article (which is not actually showing a real scientific study that follows established scientific method, by the way), the meaning of the word "earning".

In the case of a grade, the grade is an attribution of merit. The grade represents the student's estimated ability and mastery in the evaluated field. If this grade is "traded away" to someone with a lower one, simply because of need, then clearly the grade's meaning becomes falsified, and thus the grading system itself is rendered inoperative with regards to its primary function, which is to clearly identify who has demonstrated mastery of concepts being taught, and who has not. Socialism does not attempt to falsify this data, nor does it claim to, ever, anywhere, to my knowledge.

I'd like to invite further discussion, perhaps through emails or over a forum, as I'd really like to learn about the origins and causes of your apparent beliefs on fairness and merit. Thoughts?
1 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2012
So Frank, do you believe what individuals create and earn in the market place represents the merit of their hard work and ingenuity to meet the demands of their customers?

1 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2012
Yes. How about the clutter of derivative, self-evident meta-meta-meta... studies?
These are actually non-retractable.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 30, 2012
"We need a better system," said Harold Garner, executive director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech.

We need better scientists.

As scientific researchers become evermore competitive for scarce funding...

Scarce funding??? We have way too much of it as it is. If funding seems scarce it is because there are far too many "scientific researchers" depending on it. And I say that as someone who is pro-science.

And plagiarism - bad as it is - should be considered more as a symptom of the problem than the problem itself. And the problem isn't a lack of research funding.
not rated yet Jan 30, 2012
We need better scientists.
Every social arrangement (communism, laissez-faire society), which is dependent on the quality of people is the utopia in advance, because you cannot get the better people in principle. Fortunately scientists are quite limited group of people, and they can be preselected from the rest. Nevertheless, this method depending on the quality of selection is still unreliable, particularly because the scientists are highly specialized profession and you can select them only with (using of) another scientists.

A much better way is therefore to adjust rules, which would be obligatory for every scientist and these rules will not be maintained with scientists itself, or they will gradually adjust to suit their needs - not the needs of the rest of society, which is paying the whole fun.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 30, 2012
On source of plagiarism is the tendency of journals to shorten the journal articles, i.e. to shorten the list of sources and references too. http://www.nytime...2&hp The journalists, including PhysOrg are playing their role too, because they're motivated in presentation of their stories in most attractive way possible - so they pretend often, the results of research are more original, then they really are.

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